Do you remember when blogging was just this trendy, little hobby thing for stay-at-home parents and toy collectors? So much has changed in just the past decade. Today, blogging has taken the world by storm, and businesses have fully embraced the value that an active blog can have for driving traffic to their website, attracting new customers and building their brand.
If you’re a little late to the party, don’t worry. You’re not the only one. There are still tons of businesses out there that don’t even have a basic website set up yet, much less one that includes a blog with regularly-published blog posts. Soon, you’ll have a blog up and running and will begin to reap the benefits for yourself.
You’ve probably seen that there are tons of options for starting a blog, and you might even find it all a little confusing. With all the talk about self-hosted blogs, WordPress, website builders and free blog sites, how do you know which method to choose? Where do you start?
Well, that’s actually an easy question to answer.
Spoiler: It’s WordPress
If you are running an actual business and plan on making blogging a serious part of that business, then there is no better choice than registering your own website domain, buying web hosting and then installing WordPress blogging software. There are a lot of other options out there, and you might also want to try some of them out. But here in 2018 there is just no other blogging platform that gives you the freedom, variety and control over your content, your traffic and your monetization than WordPress.
It’s important here to make the distinction between WordPress software and WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a free blogging platform that uses WordPress software, but it is not recommended for businesses and professional bloggers — more on that below.
For now, don’t worry about WordPress.com. You don’t want that. You just want WordPress software, which you can install for free with the click of a button when you sign up with a major web hosting service such as HostGator, SiteGround or GoDaddy. If your hosting service doesn’t offer free, simple, one-click WordPress installation for your website domain, then you can head over to WordPress.org and follow their instructions for installing it yourself.
The only logical reason why you might choose something other than WordPress blogging software is that you are scared to death of technology and have zero time or tolerance for learning anything new.
But even then, WordPress still ends up being unavoidable in many cases. A lot of bloggers and business managers have gone with website builders or some other free blogging option beside WordPress, only to later switch over to it anyway — creating a lot more headaches for themselves in the long run.
So for a business or professional blogger, the only real choice is to get your own website domain and web hosting with WordPress software installed. There are tons of free video tutorials out there that can show you how to set it all up in less than 30 minutes. And if you get your web hosting through one of the major hosting services listed above, then they can walk you through it over the phone if you still need some help.
Most web hosting services also have an option where they can set up your blog and install WordPress for you for an additional fee, so that is a good option for technophobes who just want a blog that is ready to go with almost no learning curve needed.
Now, there are some other options for starting a blog. These are not recommended in place of a self-hosted blog with WordPress, but they do deserve a quick mention. And some businesses that rely heavily on blogging are finding that there are advantages to blogging on multiple platforms, so that will be discussed below too.
Drag-and-Drop Website Builders
There are a lot of blogging platforms out there called website builders that are super-easy to use for setting up a blog. Some of them are available for free, but most require a monthly fee. These platforms use simple, drag-and-drop layout and design options that you might actually enjoy, and most of the design templates available are pretty cool.
The main drawback with these is that you don’t have nearly as many options for customizing the look, layout and functionality of your blog.
Some of the more popular site builders are Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly and Duda. Squarespace consistently gets some of the best ratings and reviews and is probably the best option among site builders, but it still has its limitations.
Free Blogging Platforms
Free blogging platforms are fine for personal blogs and part-time hobbyists who aren’t interested in running a real business or trying to make money. Most free platforms don’t even allow you to make money from your blog, as they put their own ads on your content and make money from it for themselves. Blogger/Blogspot is an exception, but it is so limited in its design functionality that it cannot be taken seriously for a business blog.
Another big drawback with free blogs is that the domain itself looks unprofessional, as it will include the name of the platform first, followed by your blog name. It’s just a long, wordy mess and screams, “Amateur!” So you need to have your own blog on your own website to be taken seriously as a business.
But here’s an advantage that some free blogging platforms offer: a built-in audience.
Some businesses are finding that they can get a decent amount of additional exposure for their brand by pushing out their blog posts from their main blog site to these free platforms — kind of like syndicating your content so that it appears in multiple places around the web to attract new readers and build your brand recognition.
Most of these sites also make it easy for search engines to know that your main site is the original source of the content, so you can easily avoid duplicate content penalties and keep traffic flowing to your own company blog.
Since many free blog sites have an active community of bloggers and readers, your content can get instant traffic and engagement, so there can be some real value here for businesses. Just remember that these platforms should not take the place of your own website, but they can be good for expanding your audience and building your personal brand.
Some good free sites for blogging include Medium, Tumblr, WordPress.com and even LinkedIn.
So in the end, it’s difficult to imagine any scenario in which a self-hosted blog set up with WordPress is not the best choice for a business that is committed to blogging. When you build your blog on other platforms, your design options are much more limited. Your monetization options are also much more limited. And in some cases you can even get your blog shut down at any moment if the platform decides that it doesn’t like your message and business practices, or if it simply goes out of business.
Switching over to WordPress later on can be very difficult — or even next to impossible — with some of these platforms. So your best option is to just buy your own domain and hosting and get WordPress installed. In addition, you can see some benefits for growing your audience rapidly by also blogging on free platforms like LinkedIn and Medium, so it doesn’t hurt to test the waters with those sites too.
Then, once your blog is set up, you just need to put out high-quality content on a regular basis and start engaging with your readers. Over time, your traffic levels will grow, and your readers will start converting into customers.